Eat Local South East
Camping in the South East puts you on the doorstep of a wealth of culture, entertainment, heritage and natural beauty. The vibrant cities and towns offer exciting flavours from around the world in street stalls, quirky cafes and top-end restaurants.
Pretty village gastropubs pepper the South Downs whose chalky soil and favourable climate also make the perfect conditions for wine producers. Kent produces plentiful wine too, alongside hops for its breweries and bounteous vegetables to fulfil its role as the South East’s allotment. If you are looking for a heady mix of fun and great food, the South East is your destination.
Ali's Eat Local loves
Seafood - Whitstable oysters, fresh hot smoked mackerel filled baps bought from the tiny smokery on Brighton's seafront. Drink - Beers from the Hogs Back Brewery, Ridgeview Sparkling wine. Treats - An ice cream from Morelli's Gelato, Broadstairs.
Chillis are big in Chichester. They are also small, hot, fiery, mild and multi-coloured. In fact the West Dean Gardens here house a collection of about 200 different varieties, of all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of heat.
Now while a visit to the gardens to marvel at the chillis, the kitchen garden and glorious parkland is a good way to spend a day, the real attraction has to be the Red Hot Chilli Fiesta held here in early August. This is a festival celebrating everything about these little red rockets of fire. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, latino dancing and plenty of spicy food stalls. How much heat can you take?
The English wine industry is rightfully gaining recognition on the world stage. The climate and soil conditions in Sussex match those of France’s Champagne region. Now Sussex sparkling wines are regularly beating the French equivalents in taste tests. Taste for yourself on a wine tour of the region.
Our Norman’s Bay Site is less than 30 minutes away from two great vineyards. Carr-Taylor offers guided tours with tutored wine tastings, or you can choose to do a self-guided tour instead. The Eco-pioneers at Sedlescombe became England’s first organic vineyard in 1976. You can picnic under ancient oaks in their bluebell wood with a bottle of their finest.
Adgestone, Isle of Wight
Mention the Isle of Wight and I think of ice cream. Minghella’s ice-cream to be precise. You can buy it all over the island, but for a proper Isle of Wight ice-cream experience buy it from the Minghellas van parked on the top of Brading Down.
You can look at the glorious views over Sandown while you lick. The Minghella family moved to the island from Italy in the 1950s bringing their gelato know-how with them. This knowledge, combined with the creamy milk from the island's herds of Channel Island cows, local seasonal fruits and no artificial nonsense produces a heavenly ice cream worthy of great seaside holiday memories.
I challenge anyone not to be bowled over by The Goods Shed in Canterbury. A converted railway shed by Canterbury West Station has a six-day-a-week farmers' market selling fresh bread, meats, vegetables, cakes and local drinks. The cheese stall has at least 12 varieties of Kentish cheese.
Patrick's Kitchen serves delectable takeaway ready meals such as lamb stews made with ingredients from the other stalls – perfect for taking back to the site. Alternatively buy yourself a picnic and head across the road to Westgate Gardens to enjoy by the river.
The 20-minute drive to the Griffin Pub in the village of Fletching, Uckfield will reward you with the en-route delights of the Sussex villages. Pretty red-tiled houses and woodland lanes lead you to ultimately one of the best food pubs I’ve had the delight of visiting.
Locals supply freshly-picked tomatoes, artichokes and broad beans, while the fish is delivered daily from Rye on the Sussex coast and the lamb comes from the Romney Salt marshes. In the summer, an alfresco oven in the garden creates a focal point for lazy lingering lunches, while sampling the local ales.
New Forest – Camping in the Forest Sites
The atmospheric ancient woodlands make this a very special place to camp. Created as King William’s hunting ground in 1079, the forest is still home to venison, wild boar and free-grazing cattle.
The blue New Forest Marque logo displayed on food helps you Eat Local. It indicates produce that comes from within the National Park, but is also produced with high welfare standards.
Owls Barn Farm shop in Sopley sells fantastic produce. It has its own butchery so the top grade lamb, pork and beef have virtually no food miles. For a fascinating way to spend a day, John Wright, the nationally respected author on foraging, lives locally and runs mushroom walks and seashore forays.
I make no apologies for including another Sussex pub as a recommendation. This is the land of cosy country pubs after all.
The Stag Inn in Petworth epitomises all the great things about a good British pub. Log fires, wholesome home-cooked food, inglenooks and a bar propped up by contented locals.
I like the fact that is was once a sweet shop. Now you can enjoy more savoury treats below the 16th century beams, simple pub food like local sausages and mash or lamb shanks fit the bill perfectly and the jam roly poly satisfies a sweet tooth.
This is a place with a passion for real and local ales including Sussex. It is also a ‘welcomes muddy boots’ place...and walkers, cyclists and passing horseriders too.
Certificated Sites with food
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Farncombe Farm is a conservation farm. The herd of traditional Hereford cattle are raised on herb rich natural grasses on the Lambourn Downs. No chemical fertiliser or pesticides are used so the meat tastse extremely good.
The farms meat is sent to the nearby and higlyh-acclaimed Laverstoke Park Farm for preparation and comes back to Farncombe vac-packed as steaks and joints ready to sell to campers on the site.
There is a large and very productive vegetable garden at Lamberhurst. The owners grow mainly for self-sufficiency, but there is always a surplus that is put out for campers to help themselves.
There are plenty of farm shops in the vicinity selling home-grown produce as well as home-made pies and bread. The CS owners are happy to help with directions and information on local produce. But, the real foodies dream – The Weald Smokery – is just minutes away. Delectable smoked meats, fish and cheeses are on sale in the shop with shelves laden with artisan gastronomic treasures.
Lynn Cheer, owner of the CS at Rushcroft Farm is a passionate supporter of the Eat Local ethos. She farms rare breed stock and firmly believes that by buying meat and produce from rare breeds we can make a stand against intensive commercial meat production.
Her fabulous free range animals are testament to how farm animals can lead happy and healthy lives. The produce is available for campers to purchase from the farm. The Old English Goats are hand-milked daily. They provide milk, cheese and meat. The soft cheese is available in 3 flavours – natural, garlic or chive (ingredients grown on the farm too).
Pork is from Saddleback pigs that are free to roam and scoff the apples and acorns in autumn which adds to the delicious flavour of the meat. Rushcroft sell all cuts of pork including specialty sausages in various mouth watering flavors – great for the barbecue!
Campers can also get eggs from the free-range chickens. Finally, beef from the Angus cattle that have been hand-reared from calfs on the farm, provides the content for the home-made burgers – always a big hit for summer barbecues.